5 Ally Actions for White People to Address White Supremacy
White supremacy is a term that often polarizes groups. It conjures up images of burning crosses, egregious racist behavior, and hateful violence. That is not what white supremacy means.
White supremacy “is the belief that the White race is superior to other racial identities.”
White supremacy does not require a KKK membership or does not even mean you are racist or have racist behavior. It is a flawed belief system that maintains racial superiority based on the color of one’s skin.
White supremacist behavior may sound like:
- “I am not sure they are a cultural fit (Black or Brown person)…”
- “Their culture (non-White) is lazy, criminal, the problem with this country…”
- “Why do all (Black or brown people) do this…”
These statements are problematic because they imply that non-White people are the problem. They suggest that behavior is linked to skin color. 99.9% of our biology as humans is the same regardless of the package of skin color or our melanin level. Applying labels and inferior references to Black and Brown people support white supremacy.
Often, White people do not see white supremacy culture. They do not think these statements are aligned with white supremacy.
Why White People Do Not “See” White Supremacy
In the months following George Floyd’s murder, many White people woke up to the fact that systemic racism still exists. Since then, continued positive momentum has brought more White people into the conversation about racism, but very few have been willing to address the real and systemic problems that sustain our racist culture.
It’s hard to see what you haven’t experienced yourself. It requires empathy, curiosity, and taking on the perspective of others. It requires listening to the countless stories of others’ lived experiences that are vastly different than your own. As a White person myself, it is impossible for me to walk around in brown or black skin to fully understand the lived experiences of people of color. I cannot know what that feels like. I have to listen to learn first.
White People Can Still Opt Out
While this is unfortunate in 2021, White people do not have to care about racism. It does not affect them directly in their everyday experiences. While demographics are shifting and biracial is the largest growing racial demographic in the US, we’re still 20 years away from White no longer being the racial majority. The mere recognition of this fact can cause the flawed zero sum game mentality to kick in, where White people think they have to defend the white race rather than embrace racial diversity and the reality of the future.
White people are often triggered by the fear of irrelevance. White people think if we care about racism or diversity, somehow we care less about White people or can’t contribute to that “diversity” conversation. That is untrue. By caring about all humans, we all benefit. We are stronger together. We are more innovative, safer, and smarter as a result of interactions with others different than ourselves.
We all play a role in the systems that support racism. I like how Slow Factory Foundation frames the Eight White Identities like this:
5 Ally Actions
Step 1: Do your own research
Do not put the burden on people of color to solve this alone. On a recent episode of my Next Pivot Point podcast, a recent guest, Zach Nunn, founder of Living Corporate, shared, “White people need to put out the fire they started.”
If you can Google search it and learn, do your own homework first. Read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts. There are lots of free resources available here. Don’t set the expectation for other people to educate you when they’re already being burdened with daily experiences with white supremacy. Have your ah-ha moments, but on your own time.
Step 2: Listen to learn
Get curious. Ask people that you have a trusted relationship with (can’t emphasize that enough) who are of a different race than you, questions like “How are you doing? What challenges are you experiencing on race right now? What is one thing I could do to support this?”
Listen without judgement. Don’t make the conversation about you. Don’t sugarcoat or rationalize their experiences. Know that you do not know what it is like to be that person.
Step 3: Carry the stories of others’ with you
When you learn something from your own research or through talking with others, it is your responsibility to carry those stories with you. Keep them in your back pocket for a time when it’s helpful to educate someone else. If you hear a story more than once, it’s probably universal in nature.
Believe other people’s stories. Honor their lived experiences. Treasure stories that people share with you that may be painful and hard. If you don’t experience those things, it is your own unique position to let other people see that white supremacy is real and harmful.
Step 4: Get other White people on board
As a White person, you’re in a unique position to bring other White people into the conversation. It doesn’t appear as though you have skin in the game (pun intended). People are more likely to listen to you. Condemning white supremacy and racism doesn’t look as self-serving as it might from a Black or Brown person. People won’t think you’re playing victim or blame you as they might a Black or Brown person. Having white skin is a chance to help others be heard.
Step 5: Address systemic change in your local community
It is daunting to address systemic racism and white supremacy at a national or global level. It is much easier to address it in your own local community. That means voting, doing your homework on legislative reform, advocating for social change at a local level, and talking with your children about this. We all can be agents of change. People are watching our behavior every day for signs of what’s acceptable. If you’re a leader, your team is watching you as a model. We all have an obligation to use privilege for good.